Given the recent rash of voting irregularities, from New York City to North Carolina, it’s small wonder that many co-op and condo residents fret about fraudulent or compromised board elections at their annual meeting. Here are some potential trouble areas – and ways to avoid them.
Proxies – "In my experience, if fraud is going to occur, it happens with submission of fraudulent proxies," attorney Steve Wagner, a partner at Wagner Berkow, tells Brick Underground. “There are a few signs of proxy fraud to look out for: For example, if there is a dramatic increase in the number of proxies from prior years, or someone arrives at a meeting with a large number of proxies that include proxies from people who already gave proxies to another candidate."
If this happens, conduct a careful check of the signatures on the proxy forms against your co-op's records, he advises.
Ballot Distribution – "A sure way to avoid fraud is to distribute a ballot as the apartment owner is checking in,” Wagner says, “and to have the ballot 'authenticated' by either numbering, stamping, or initialing it, or having the ballot be a different color," Wagner says. This way, you'll be able to keep track of how many ballots are in circulation. These ballots should also be counted by "disinterested inspectors," Wagner suggests, to further avoid any tampering.
Absentee Voters and Paper Ballots – "The safest way to ensure a fair outcome is to have the voting done through a computer program which requires a password for each shareholder or owner," says Deanna Kory, a broker with Corcoran. "Many buildings have some sort of a centralized program, and perhaps voting can be set up through that system for people who will not be present at the meeting. This would ensure elections to be accurate and fair."
Outside Oversight – “[Shareholders] can request the board retain an independent election company to conduct the election,” says Jeffrey Reich, partner at Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas. “This would offer a level of objectivity and protection.”
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